DePaul Comes Up Short at St. John's

DePaul Comes Up Short at St. John's

With retribution and hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid on their mind, St. John's (19-11, 9-8) came ready to play and took it to DePaul (11-19, 3-14) early and had enough in them to overcome a furious second-half DePaul rally to win 72-64 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 10,670.

After a sluggish start for both teams that would not end until Billy Garrett Jr. scored the game's first bucket on a layup with 16:50 to go in the first half, it was then that St. John's would turn up the intensity level and assert themselves.

That's when it also turned into a block party for the Red Storm. St. Johns' swatted six first-half DePaul shots, en route to rejecting an impressive 14 shots—one off a school record—in the game.

Also aided by some hot first-half shooting (60.9 percent and 50 percent from three point range) and stout defense, St. John's stormed to an early 16-4 lead. DePaul would get the lead down to eight with 4:13 to go in the first half, but headed into halftime down 33-21.

The second half started off as more of the same as St. John's surged out to a 45-25 lead with 15:08 to go in the game on an Orlando Sanchez three-point play. However, DePaul would not go quietly and stormed back into the game on the heels of 29-12 run. After an R.J. Curington three pointer with 4:14 to go, DePaul was within three, 57-54.

In the end, though, it was not enough.

"I think we played better in the second half than we did in the first half," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. "We really dug ourselves a hole. We got ourselves in a position where we had a chance."

However, old habits reappeared in the final four minutes of the game for the Demons.

DePaul made mental mistakes and St. John's made the necessary defensive plays while also converting 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch to effectively put DePaul away.

"(We) had to use so much energy to get there," Purnell said. "We missed shots going to the basket and a couple of turnovers. We were out of gas. I give St. John's credit for making some game-winning plays."

DePaul would get hammered on the boards, losing the rebound battle 43-26 and gave up 13 second chance points while only scoring three themselves. DePaul also lost the transition battle, which lead to 11 fast-break points for the Red Storm.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin thought that the interior play and their defense was clearly the deciding factor.

"We were fortunate to be plus-17 on the boards and get 14 blocked shots, and that ultimately was the difference at the end of the day," said Lavin.

St. John's was led by D'Angelo Harrison's double-double. He scored a game-high 25 points (8-17 from the field) to go with 10 rebounds and four assists. SirDominic Pointer (14 points) and Sanchez (13 points) were St. John's other double-figure scorers. Chris Obekpa was a beast on the defensive end with a game-high 11 rebounds and five blocks.

For DePaul, it was once again Brandon Young who led the way, as he led the Demons with 23 points on 9-20 shooting. He also chipped in with four assists, four steals and only committing two turnovers.

"I'm just trying to stay focused out there and to (get the team to) play together" said Young. "We tried our best to fight back in the game. It was very tough (attacking St. John's at the hoop) and they got shot blockers. We forced some shots (but) we'll from our mistakes."

Garrett Jr. was the only other Demon in double figures, as he finished with 12 points.

For the game, DePaul shot 41.3 percent while St. John's shot 50 percent from the field.

DePaul will now finish the regular season at home on Thursday night against Butler in a battle to stay out of the Big East cellar.

"We don't want to come in last place," Young added. "It's Senior Night, so we're gonna try to get a win for the seniors, including myself, and keep it going before (the Big East Tournament)."

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